PJ Masks/Heroes Forever (2019) – Anyone who has a five year old child, teaches primary students, or have walked through the Target toy section recently is likely somewhat familiar with PJ Masks, the three school children who transform into crime-fighting superheroes at night. Before any of my peers say “What? They have an album?” I would like to take a second to remind them about TMNT’s Coming Out of their Shells tour and album.
Apparently the ten-minute-long ten-track Here We Come must have been a smash, because Heroes Forever is the second PJ Masks-themed album. This one has eight songs with slightly longer track lengths – in the ballpark of a minute and a half each. This appears to be a higher-budget affair than Here We Come, as it has much less of a midi-like quality and has much more of a live instruments/rock and roll thing going on. Lots of guitars. Real drums. Hand claps with reverb. Lots of organ for some reason.
The first four tracks – an intro and a song each for the heroes (Catboy, Gekko, and Owlette) – are not particularly good and are, despite better production values, a step down from Here We Come. But things pick up with a song each for the three main villains, Romeo (whose song is catchy albeit Smashmouth-esque), Luna Girl (whose song sounds sort of like, hmm, Save Ferris if Save Ferris had been fronted by a voice actor whose gig was to sing “with a mild Katy Perry vibe”), and Night Ninja. The album ends with sort of a blue eyed soul song reminiscent of Some Fantastic Place-era Squeeze, which is an odd way to describe a song from a children’s TV album.
In life, as on Heroes Forever, sometimes the villains have the best songs. Bobby Brown sold a lot more records than Ralph Tresvant. B
Digitech Ventura Vibe (Rotary/Vibrato/Univibe Guitar Effects Pedal) – A few years ago I bought and quickly sold a used BOSS Rotary Ensemble pedal, a pedal whose main function is to imitate the sound of a Leslie speaker, as heard on, say, “Black Hole Sun” or “Badge.” It was a full-featured and sturdy pedal but didn’t sound that great and, most importantly, despite a huge number of knobs and two footswitches, lacked a “depth” control.
But this isn’t a review of the BOSS pedal. Unlike the “double” size BOSS pedal, the Ventura Vibe, which I also bought used, is about the size of an MXR pedal and has most of the same features, including overdrive, stereo in and out (which is sort of a non-feature as stereo amps or matched mono amps aren’t really a thing in the guitar world), and does have a depth knob.
But all the features and sturdy build quality in the world wouldn’t be worth talking about because this pedal just plain doesn’t sound good. I do not insist on analogue. Plenty of companies like TC Electronic make digital pedals that sound great. Led Zeppelin used a digital delay way back in 1975! It isn’t that. I suppose this pedal does what it is supposed to in the vibrato mode, but the univibe mode is a poor digital facsimile of a real univibe, and the “rotary” mode sounds more like a different bad digital variation of a univibe than a rotating speaker. The range of the knobs seem funny. There is no sweet spot anywhere that sounds good. There is no “Black Hole Sun” or “Badge” to be found. That’s a shame. A rotary pedal should growl. It should emphasize certain frequencies in kind of a resonant-filter-like way and have kind of a tremolo thing going on. This may as well be “phaser with peak clipping.” That’s like a flanger pedal that can’t do “Barracuda.” The overdrive also sounds terrible. There is no “output” knob. The graphics look pretty silly. And what kind of name is Ventura Vibe? Digitech does include a rubber “setting locker” thing to keep the knobs in place for a favorite setting as well as a custom-cut piece of velcro for the back. I’m sure it’s as bad on keyboards as guitar.
Oh, well. Trying out pedals is fun. I just sold it on Reverb after not owning it long at all. I hope the new owner likes it more than I do. D+
Simply “High Pulp” Orange Juice – I like pulp, and this is better than Minute Maid, and it may be marginally better than Florida’s Natural, but it has a heavy “sealed-in-a-plastic-jug” taste beyond even Tropicana. Much better OJ is to be found at Costco or the organic offerings at Safeway and Fred Meyer. B-